Kay King


Kay King is a fashion designer and educational administrator.  She is Division Chair of Lifestyle Arts and Design Careers at Houston Community College where she supervises eight Career and Technology Education Programs in Culinary and Pastry Arts, Fashion and Costume Design, Interior Design, Fashion Merchandising, Hotel and Restaurant Management and Travel and Tourism.  She was a successful Houston fashion designer for 20 years before joining HCC 30 years ago where all the programs have flourished under her leadership. After two successful Passion for Fashion fundraisers, the HCC Foundation established the Kay King Scholarship in her honor.

Division website: http://central.hccs.edu/lifestylearts
Historical Fashion Collection website: http://library.hccs.edu/Fashion
Scholarship: http://www.hccsfoundation.org/netcommunity/kayking


Kay King at the HER Awards


Award Letter

A little more about Kay:

Since 1959, Kay King has been a major influence in Houston’s fashion industry. Her designs have been seen in major department stores and magazines. Yet, for almost 30 years, her greatest influence on fashion has been behind the scenes. In her role as educator and administrator at Houston Community College, she has inspired generations of students to shape the industry she loves.


In recognition of her role as a teacher and mentor, King was named the recipient of Houston Woman Magazine’s 2010 Wise Woman Award. King was honored at the Fourth Annual Nominate HER Awards luncheon on May 21 at La Colombe d’Or Mansion.


Dr. Cheryl Peters, who nominated King for the award, said, “Kay is truly exemplary. She has many natural gifts: her wonderful human relations skills, her energy, and her courage and spirit. The fact that she just doesn’t ever want to stop going and doing.”


Even when she was forced to quit her job in order to adopt her son, Collin, King found a way to keep working. After ten years of marriage and 11 as an employed designer, King and her husband, George, decided it was time to have a baby. When it was clear they could not conceive, the couple applied to adopt a child from DePelchin Children’s Center whose rules at that time stated mothers could not work outside the home.


While still waiting for the baby, King was offered a job at Foley’s as the men’s fashion director. The part-time position led to a job that would change King’s career. Judge Roy Hofheinz had fired his costume designer just one month before he planned to open a new theme park, AstroWorld. He called an acquaintance at Foley’s who suggested King design the outfits he needed. She agreed to design and manufacture the uniforms and costumes for all park employees.


King said, “I didn’t go to bed for a month. It was the best worst job I ever had. But it was very, very rewarding, and the costumes turned out just great.”


That job, and the relationship it cemented with Judge Hofheinz resulted in a boost to King’s career. While working from home, her designs included the Astrodome employee uniforms, Derrick Dolls Houston Oilers Cheerleader uniforms, Houston Rockets Flight Crew uniforms, and various uniforms for Parker of Houston.


During that time, King was asked to serve on an advisory committee at HCC to develop a curriculum for the new fashion design program. After writing the curriculum, King was asked to teach a class, as well.


“I was scared to death, teaching, because it was never on my radar plan. But I couldn’t believe how much I loved it,” King said. “In 1991, I went back to school and got a master’s degree in liberal arts.”


Though a master’s degree was not required, she committed to her education because she was committed to those she was educating.. From the beginning of the program she hired only instructors with fashion industry experience to prepare the students for the more difficult aspects of the job.


King said, “They [the experienced instructors] can let the students know how to get their foot in the door and how to be successful once they have gotten out in the industry. It’s a difficult industry, so we want to get them as prepared as possible.”


When she eventually became chair of the Lifestyle Arts and Design Careers Division, she continued the practice in each of the eight programs: Fashion Design, Fashion Merchandising, Theatrical Costume Design, Interior Design, Culinary Arts, Pastry Arts, Hotel and Restaurant Management, Travel and Tourism, plus the Historical Fashion Collection. The student’s preparation for the “real world” is evidenced by their 100 percent job placement for all of the programs.


The notoriety of her students, thus the college itself, has grown durning her tenure. Her encouragement to enter state, national and international competitions has resulted in her students winning numerous awards. Student competitions and fashion shows are televised on HCCTV. She, herself, has too many accolades to list.


In 1996, King became an educator of a different sort. As president of the Federation of Houston Professional Women, she planned a trip to D.C. for 20 of her peers. Her idea was to connect women through travel. The trip’s success led to King’s position as travel director ever since. For 15 years, she has conducted trips of up to 22 women to various cities around the world.


Peters said, “The women on Kay’s trips will go anywhere and try anything. Her courage and her spirit are boundless. And I’ve found very few women, as they get older, to exemplify that and model it for others.”


An example of her courage: she spent her 60th birthday skydiving for the first time.


King said, “I do believe in living life to the fullest. I do believe in taking risks to accomplish what you want to accomplish. I guess that old adage, ‘Do what you want to do and ask forgiveness later,’ is one of my philosophies, too.”